Ethiopia’s Forty Tons of Gold

By G. E. Gorfu
Jan. 29 2010

It was reported last November that over 40 tons of gold deposits, estimated to be worth $1.7 Billion US dollars was discovered in two places in western Ethiopia. That report also indicated that a British and a Saudi Arabian company are the discoverers of these deposits. That is welcome news to Ethiopia in a time when gold seems to be the only safe bulwark against inflation and the price of gold keeps soaring to new heights everyday in the Stock Exchanges of the world.

Many countries that have gold mines however, have experience serious drawbacks that Ethiopia can learn from and avoid. The problem with gold mines (and almost all mines in general) is the serious environmental degradation and destruction that can result. If the British and Saudi Arabian companies excavate gold and leave us behind a big hole in the ground, it is not good, no matter how much money we may get from our gold. The money will soon be gone, but the big hole will remain.

Furthermore, the big hole is only one of the many drawbacks. In order to extract gold from the soil various heavy metals like mercury and poisonous chemicals like cyanide are used, and if proper precautions are not taken, these leech into the ground polluting, and poisoning the rivers and the water, raising acid levels, and making it dangerous for consumption by human and animals.1

One study has found that an average 18 karat gold ring, that one may wear on a finger and may only weigh a few grams, can leave as much as 20 tons of polluted mining waste behind.2 Open-pit gold mine uses a method known as "cyanide heap-leaching" in which huge piles of crushed ore are soaked with cyanide solution to extract the gold. These are serious points to consider when we welcome the gold that stands to make Ethiopia rich. We may wish for Ethiopia to be “filthy-rich” from all these gold deposits, but cyanide is not the filth we want in our country.

In spite of many recent advances in mining, gold mining remains one of the dirtiest mining activities, far worse than coal that may look black and dirty. Gold did not bring the Congo wealth or peace; on the contrary, its people are destitute and in misery. And western nations that get the final product do not seem to care as long as the gold and all other precious minerals continue to flow in their direction. We must learn from this terrible state of affairs still taking place in the Congo to avoid a similar fate. Here is a video from 60 minutes to watch and educate onself.3